Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Francesco Corbetta - Passacaille


Israel Golani - baroque guitar

Caprice de Chacone


Pierre Pitzl - baroque guitar

More On The Idiotic Statement That The Black Church Supports White Supremacy


James Cone is the living theologian who speaks most strongly to me.   When I talk about Christianity it is the Christianity that he talks about, most of all. which I mean.  Its authentic character grows with everything I hear him say, everything by him I read.

Who Needs Springtime For Hitler When The Mother Is A Real Thing?

That quote about those who struggle I gave the other day is cited in various places as being from Bertolt Brecht's 1930 Cantata-play Mother, not to be confused with Mother Courage And Her Children.  I'd never seen it or heard it before going to look for the quote in the original.   I read through the scores of some of the songs which Hans Eisler wrote for the production at IMSLP and listened to a number of Youtubes of the music.  It's easy to see why it didn't catch on.  I couldn't locate the original version of the quote in the play but it is about as awful a piece of musical theater as I've ever heard.   And I've heard some real junk.  If you want a good example of how bad it is, here's a Youtube from a production in English, with new music,  of one of the less absurd songs,  Praise of Learning.   In addition to that there is Praise of Communism and, if that's whetted your whistle, Praise of the Dialectic (in the original, I couldn't find it in English).   Really, "Praise of the Dialectic" just an idea that sings out of great musical theater, isn't it.   It wasn't until fairly recently that I read some of Brecht's thoughts in advocating his "materialist, anti-metaphysical. non-Aristotelian" dramas, of which The Mother, may be the quintessential example.  I have to say, most of his theorizing is total crap, You have to twist words and go through a lot of dishonest contortions to pretend that such make believe entities as the dialectic aren't metaphysical, not to mention everything else about this most non-realistic presentation of a pretend reality.  Theater is inescapably metaphysical, it isn't physical reality, its representation of time, alone, is a complete violation of physical reality. But such is the pretense whenever materialist ideologues pretend that their ideologies are not metaphysical in any way because materialism has to be false if there is any reality in any metaphysical entity.

This work was mounted in Germany in the struggle against the Nazis, who, predictably, closed down the production and jailed the actors.  Which probably had nothing to do with much of anything political  or real life.  The pretense that a theatrical production, one seen by several thousand people, at most, would have a political effect is absurd.  But even in the most attractive production imaginable The Mother is so unrelentingly awful and absurd in presenting Soviet style communism as THE alternative to Nazism that I can't imagine it as being anything but counter productive.  That anyone would produce it, seriously, today, with what is known about the Soviet Union, especially in the period when Brecht wrote the thing and Eisler set them in his dreadful political style, it has a real Springtime for Hitler quality to it.  It's not as if the reports of atrocities and mass killing were unknown in 1930, those were available from the most anti-capitalist of sources as well as the accurate reports of anti-communists.

I wasn't exactly brought up to adore Bertolt Brecht, I doubt my parents talked about him even once, though I would guess they'd heard of him.   It was my reading and education that inculcated my former affection for him and his writing.  Some of it I still do like, the anti-Nazi stuff, though even the experience of that has to be mitigated by his promotion of some of the worst of communism.  I always thought his fleeing the bumbling American fascists of the House American Activities Committee for the grim and far more efficiently oppressive regime in East Germany had to count against his proclaimed love of freedom and the dignity of humanity.   He outlived Stalin by three years, he must have heard about at least some of the tens of millions of murders under Stalin's workers "paradise" the grim reality of it was certainly all around him in his last years.

In contrast he lived in the United States enjoying, no doubt, his celebrity and some of the profits available to those who are involved in movie production.  In terms of the experience available to Brecht, America had not only achieved a level of material prosperity unheard of in human history but had also produced such the manifestations as near universal public education, including the land grant university system, the GI Bill, and other, unprecedented and unheard of anti-capitalistic redistribution of wealth that he had never seen anywhere else.   With all of the massive faults of the United States in the late 1940s early 1950s, the racism and other evils that had yet to be overturned,  the "dialectic" at work in the United States had produced nothing to rival the evils that the competing "scientific" ideologies of fascism-Nazism and communism had produced in Germany and the rest of Europe.   It produced the far more generalized material prosperity that he experienced when he fled Europe for here.

Marilynne Robinson, in her essays points out that no less an expert than Marx did not consider the United States a capitalist country, she joins in the observation that the United States has not, in fact, until recently been a classically capitalist country, despite what Marxists here and abroad have deplored about us, along with our alleged vulgarity.  That is an attitude that became fashionable among the educated elite here as it yearned for some imagined level of sophistication achieved in Europe.  Which, by the way, produced vulgar junk that could rival anything produced here, and which had already produced evil in ways and in amounts that the United States had not yet rivaled.

The casual anti-Americanism that has become a required character trait among educated people has certainly not helped endear that class to the majority of Americans.  The absurdity of that might account for how, in Chicago, in 2013, with the full range of the mass murders of the Soviet Union, those countries it occupied before and after the Second World War, the as massive mountain of murdered people in China under Mao and in other, smaller countries under communism fully documented and known, someone thought it was a good idea to mount a production of Brecht's lying, awful. dreary piece of "materialist, anti-metaphysical, anti-Aristotelian"  agit-prop.   Every word of it being false is not only proven by the historical record of Soviet communism and communism elsewhere, but also in its total and absolute impotence in fighting fascism and Nazism.   We know that now beyond any rational doubt.  It is as absolutely known as the massive crimes of the Nazis.   Only, for some reason, we're supposed to pretend we don't know it.   It's worse than insane, it's a lie.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Answer To The Stupid Statement Made At Salon That The Black Church Supports White Supremacy


I would love to hear the entire sermon because this is the first time that the meaning of the horrific Psalm 137, the entire thing after the first, often quoted verses, where the crime of infanticide seems to be reveled in, made real in the context of American responses to 9-11.

1  By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.

2  There on the poplars
we hung our harps,

3  for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

4  How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?

5  If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.

6  May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

7  Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”

8  Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.

9  Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

I heard nothing, nothing whatsoever, in the secular left that was as powerful or as meaningful, it is entirely bereft of this kind of prophetic testimony because it rejects the enormous record of examination contained in The Bible.  Coates' journalism doesn't match it.

How Can A 48 Year Old "Humanist" Work At Harvard in 2015 Without Having Been Exposed To These Ideas?

So, Ta-Nehisi Coates, with a new and very well received book, and, probably more to the point, appearing on The Daily Show, is the flavor of the month, it would seem.   I had read some of his things in the Atlantic and was as impressed with his writing ability as everyone else but the recent explosion in his fame has left me rather puzzled.  I have not read his book, though I might well read it.

Like some others who read Greg Epstein's praise for Coates on the basis of his atheism at Salon,  I'm rather astonished that it took Coates writing in his book and in the Atlantic so very recently to open the eyes of so many white people to the issues he covers.  Especially those white folk who study and work at a major intellectual institution such as Harvard, like Epstein.  Didn't they ever read other black writers of whom there have been scores and hundreds talking about these issues, some with the same insights Coates writes about decades ago, some more than a century ago?  Many of those writers were available to me living in a rural backwater in the north years before Epstein was born, I read some of them when I was in high school more than a half a century ago.  Since Epstein is an ordained Rabbi* as well as an atheist chaplain at Harvard, who studied at major universities, I wonder how he could have apparently missed the entire range of Black liberation theology and the earlier writings of such ubiquitously known figures as The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. and the myriad of other black writers who have addressed the same issues that Coates writes about, leaving it to him to primarily give the same ideas an update in his own writing style.  It isn't that Coates is a more insightful writer than those older and previous writers, he's merely a younger one with a more currently fashionable framing.

What he says about black lives mattering was being said in the late 19th century and through the 20th century by black writers such as Ida B. Wells and Walter Francis White, it was exposed all during the anti-lynching campaign, even to a wider audience.  And black writers have never stopped writing about that and against the many murders of people for being black, certainly including summary executions by the police of entirely innocent people as well as people who were murdered by the police for things white people would have done without any police action being taken.  What Coates says about that is far less profound than what James Cone has said about it during the same period and far less useful in both providing strategies of coping and of making improvements.  As I noted the other day, some of Coates' statements are far more likely to lead to an impotent despair than they are real progress in real lives.  Black lives are lives in reality, not merely things to be thought about by intellectuals and the causal readers of Atlantic articles and books.  They mattered before the recent coverage of police shootings and the gun-lynchings of thugs like George Zimmerman who are let off by the police and the system caught the attention of the current white would-be-intelligentsia.

What Coates says about the issue of reparations, as well, has been talked about and discussed in massive detail beginning in the period of Reconstruction and onward to today.  It's telling that in his much talked about and important article he begins by citing The Bible, Deuteronomy 15:12-15, which provides a Biblical case that God demands that compensation be paid to slaves who have been held in the far less absolute form of bondage that is allowed under Mosaic Law, which was paid in some cases by people who gave up holding slaves under the influence of The Bible and who took the commandment to pay compensation seriously.  I read his article and don't recall seeing any comparable argument made for compensation on the basis of materialism or atheism.

I am finding it harder to take Coates as more than a very talented writer who has worked on what other, previous writers have said and presenting their thoughts and insights while ignoring that those ideas can't be generated or given any kind of moral or political force by his general framing of atheism. Which was done in the past too, it was what the Marxists here in the United States did for the entire period of the Soviet Union, supporting atheist, Communist regimes there and in other countries, conveniently ignoring that their overarching atheism was impotent to even mount a critique of capitalism with all of its baggage of racism, exploitation of workers, inequality and injustice while the religion they despised could give an absolute reason those were wrong. They also did so here, in the West, while ignoring that everything they slammed the governments here for allowing or addressing ineffectively in the period when baby steps of progress were being made was happening universally in the Soviet Union, in China, in the occupied countries in Eastern Europe and in smaller, some of them even more brutal atheist paradises such as North Korea and Pol Pot's Cambodia. I do remember even some of the most ardent voices on the left, some of whom were otherwise admirable, defending Pol Pot in the early part of his insanely homicidal regime. The Chinese government which was held up as some kind of paragon by the lunatics of Progressive Labor, who were influential in the destruction of an effective left in the late 60s and early 70s, never have had much trouble getting along with the worst of their type.

Marx didn't, as far as I can recall reading, ever address the impossibility of finding rights in materialism, workers rights, included.  He presented things as if his imaginary forces of history were actual material objects, the movements of which could be charted to determine their eventual destination.  Where he, somehow, expected they would rest in the best of all possible worlds.  In the meantime, the Soviet Union, China and other industrial atheist paradises were founded on generalized slavery, the workers being maintained for greater efficiency of production, not because they were the possessors of rights granted them by their Creator, who didn't figure into their system.  And in China, today, we see that materialism is a fungible ideology, as its "Communism" has been transformed into a Victorian capitalism on uppers.  It has no higher ideal than the creation and concentration of money.

But Coates is a writer of the post-Marxist popular atheist period, an atheism that is more compatible with the American establishment.  His career as a writer is interesting for that reason as well as for his very real talent.

The extent to which Coates turns into a media phenomenon is likely a good gauge for the phenomenon that a religious writer will be taken less seriously by the mainstream media, that being determined by the extent to which they are a religious and a liberal at the same time.  It is certainly de rigeur to be an atheist in large parts of the intelligentsia, a token appearance of a religious figure, here and there, allowable as convenient.  I have wondered at the tolerance of religious expression among minority figures in such venues as a marker of the more general condescension of the white media for minorities and their cultures.  Such minority voices appearing in the media restricted to addressing issues of minority interest.  I wonder if the extent to which anti-religion will give those such as Neil Degrasse Tyson wider access for addressing other issues will develop into a trend in the way that anti-leftism and criticism of black people by black conservatives has flourished in the media.  There would seem to be a full employment policy for such commentators as far more informed voices are banned from being heard except in the rarest of instances.  The same can be said of religious conservatives, religious liberals being another class disappeared by the media.

Atheism fully deserves the kind of critique that is popular among the scribbling classes when religion is the topic and its not going to get one even as its contradictions and hypocrisies flourish and its mythology promoted in the media.  Liberalism needs for atheism to get a full critique because of its basic incompatibility with the foundations and goals of genuine liberalism.

I would love to ask Coates where in materialism, in science, in atheism and atheist exposition of human minds and lives he finds anything to make a moral obligation to respect the rights he writes about, from the obligation to pay reparations for the work of black slaves and those held in de facto slavery during the post-emancipation period up to and including the rights of full equality.  I can tell him where those reside in Christianity, he, himself points to one of the main ones in citing Deuteronomy. If he read the great Black Liberation theologians and the Latin American and Asian Liberation theologians, he would find more than I could tell him.   And those rest on the bedrock of The Bible, which rests on a belief in the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob and the belief that all people are made in the image of God and are equally endowed by God with inalienable rights.   He won't find anything comparable in atheism.

* It is bizarre that someone who entirely rejects God and the entire basis of The Law can be considered Jewish while someone who converts to Christianity from Judaism, who believes in the same God and the Jewish tradition apparently isn't to be considered as Jewish anymore.  I have yet to read an explanation of that and would welcome one that makes sense of the matter.

Monday, July 27, 2015

I'm Told I'm a Philistine Because I Don't Bother With Movies Anymore

I must say I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book

Groucho Marx

And, remember,  he died in 1977,  just one year after VCRs became widely marketed and well before DVDs and Netflix were available.   The same year that "Star Wars" dealt the first, fatal blow to adult movie making in Hollywood.   And, believe me, going back and looking at what it made before then doesn't stand up as well as even second tier literature of the period.   That was before books started being routinely written with the movie in mind, as well.   It was the period when movie music began to really, really rot, as well. 

Adult's With The Terrible Twos Are The Asshole Nation That Dominates Online Discourse

I can only thank heaven that I missed the viral click frenzy about the crying child in the Portland, Maine diner.  I'd never heard of the restaurant before but was amazed to read that their "pancakes" are 14 inches across and an inch high.   If their "pancakes" are bigger than layer cakes, for crying out loud, no wonder they're not fast food.   If I'd ordered them unsuspecting and was left waiting for fast food (it is a "diner", after all) I'd feel like fussing a bit.   And I'm pretty amazed at how the alleged adults, especially the owner of the diner handled it.   Though I wasn't there and can't really know from the testimony of the most interested parties what really happened in the restaurant, you can judge how the alleged adults on both sides handled it afterwards.  In any case, "social" media made things worse.

You can understand the owner being upset over having her diner slammed on the diners own webpage but if you invite unmoderated comments from anyone you're asking for that.  Unmoderated comments are the home of insanity, lies and character assassination.  A business owner hosting unmoderated comments about their business is begging for grouble.  The experiment of unmoderated comment threads proves that the bad drives out the good, the bratty comments of adults up to and into the senior years will always dominate unless they are deleted or not published.  But the owner's choice to be a bigger brat in her response wasn't professional, it wasn't even adult.

The mass media, even before the internet, has done a lot to lower the level of adult thinking and acting into that of the worst of two-year-old bratiness.  Your typical TV comic or comic actor, these days, is far more likely to be either portraying or acting like an especially difficult 2-year-old with the privileges of an adult.  The promotion of verbal aggression as some kind of positive and funny thing, the sign of a strong, will take no guff pose, the sign of a wise guy or gal has become universal.  It has turned a large part of America into Asshole Nation.

I remember when I was still watching movies someone had a video of ET.  It must have been at someones' house because there is no way I'd have paid to see the thing, but I couldn't stand it because the kids in that movie were such brats, the kind who grew up to be the kinds of assholes who man internet comment threads.  I don't like that kind of stuff in kids of 9 to 14, who should have grown out of being the kinds of little brats that the worst of 2 or 3 year olds can be.   When they reach adulthood they're not brats anymore, they're the kinds of assholes who can't deal with a difficult 2 year old and who hate them for acting like 2 year olds because they're essentially 2 year olds themselves.  And they are the ones who have control of the discourse online, on comment threads, on self-books and on Twitter.  That such people have children, themselves, I am afraid, is a fault of nature, though I hope not many of them. When brats bring up brats, sometimes, in rare instances, the kids grow up, perhaps embarrassed by what an asshole their parents are.  But I wouldn't count on that as a general trend.   The promotion of aggression in the media has made life a heap of a lot worse than it needs to be, it gives such jerks permission to be even bigger jerks and to be competitive jerks trying to be the bigger asshole.

Blogs, social media, unmoderated comment threads, it was the naive hope I joined in around the turn of the millennium that they would become a new and free medium to replace the corrupt corporate media that had given us the worst president in our history and the corrupted government we have now.  But that was the same idiocy that believed that an encyclopedia that could be edited by "everyone" would produce reliable knowledge.  I had to read the results to believe how bad it could be.

P.S. I singled out ET but it was even earlier that I had someone gull me into going to see "My Life As A Dog" which I hated for the same reason, those kids were brats on their way to being adult assholes of the kind who make movies promoting that kind of behavior.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Hate Mail

I take back what I said about Eschaton being like jr. high, it's more like the third grade playground.  I have weeds in my garden that are more creative.   And more interesting. 

Mercedes Sosa - Sólo le pido a Dios (Con León Gieco) Spiritual At Noon


Sólo le pido a Dios
Que el dolor no me sea indiferente
Que la reseca muerte no me encuentre
Vacía y sola sin haber hecho lo suficiente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que lo injusto no me sea indiferente
Que no me abofeteen la otra mejilla
Después que una garra me arañó esta suerte

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que la guerra no me sea indiferente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que el engaño no me sea indiferente
Si un traidor puede más que unos cuantos
Que esos cuantos no lo olviden fácilmente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que el futuro no me sea indiferente
Desahuciado está el que tiene que marchar
A vivir una cultura diferente

Sólo le pido a Dios
Que la guerra no me sea indiferente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente
Es un monstruo grande y pisa fuerte
Toda la pobre inocencia de la gente

On The Arc of History Bending Towards Chaos As Opposed To Justice

The recent appearance by Ta-Hehisi Coates with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show produced the sound-bite to the effect that he rejects the idea of The Reverend Martin Luther King jr. that the arc of the universe bends toward justice, replacing justice in that formulation with chaos.   The extended interview, which I hadn't heard before this morning isn't so bleak and, apparently wasn't as quote worthy as that first part.  The soundbite wasn't all there was that Coates had to say about it and the rest of it was, with all due respect, a contradiction of it.   I had been pretty disturbed when I heard the sound bite because I think that quoted sentiment is fatal to political liberalism and, most certainly, the political success of liberalism - taking office, taking power, changing laws and policies for the better.

Chaos as the ultimate and inevitable result of anything we do produces a sour, depressed sense of futility which disables any effort to do anything.   It is the dead end of despair that Eugene O'Neill ended up with after he gave up (way to easily) on his previous leftism.  Though his choice of leftism was a dead-end to start with. I think it is an inevitable conclusion of materialism in which nothing, ultimately matters, including what happens to other people, it produces a disinclination to care about anything except what touches us, directly.   If someone with the privilege and success, even monetary success of an O'Neill gives up, it's probably even more dangerous course for those who are guaranteed to not have the privilege that he enjoyed.

I agree with RMJ that the difference between The Reverend King's take on the ultimate tendency of history as compared to Ta-Hehisi Coates' formulation is the difference between atheism and Christianity, or, for that matter, Judaism or Islam or even Buddhism in which, eventually, there will be a liberation from that painful and primordial chaos, against which God created the universe and life in the Genesis narrative.  The chaos isn't found good in that great alegory, it was organized matter and, even more so. living beings that are found good, or just, if you will..  The most powerful and sophisticated exposition of that alternative I have heard is the great theologian James Cone's The Cross and the Lynching Tree, in which he notes that it was the power of the belief that death was not the end of the arc, but that contrary to  Coates' dead end for the victims of the ultimate injustice at Auschwitz or by the bullet of a racist cop, there is hope for justice hidden within that merely apparent dead end.   Hope for the victim and hope for their families and loved ones who survive.   I think it was that hope that provided the essential fuel that powered all of the great movements for justice, it is the reason that any kind of progress was ever made, that means that it is not an inevitable consequence of racism that it can't be either weakened or defeated.  It is a force which will never be replaced by any other thing and produce reliable results.

I don't think as good a writer and thinker as Coates will stick with his current thinking,  I think he will come to reject it.  I think that because that was my experience and I'm no Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I was led to think in those terms by the ideology promoted in academia, materialist determinism being the default assumption of it, and which came to dominate the nominal left in the post-King period, what I have come to see is the cause of the impotence of that left as opposed to the earlier left which believed that justice was possible and the right goal of history, of our action as characters in that narrative.   I can't find the poem by Archibald Macleish in which he criticizes the existentialists for their wallowing in despair, as I recall he notes that they pretty much throw in the towel because we die.   I remember getting a kind of grim thrill from reading "No Exit" when I was a teenager, watching the video of it with Harold Pinter recently I couldn't but feel it was a total waste of time and a cheap imitation of philosophy in a nose dive of decadence, something which is also inevitable under a materialist intellectual regime.  It reminded me of a statement Rupert Sheldrake made a while back that he found current theology more interesting and useful than recent philosophy which was obsessed with such things as attacking the status of consciousness in service to atheism.

But I am a political blogger, the ultimate value of any intellectual pursuit in real life is in the extent to which it promotes the continuation of life, the improvement of life, the progress towards equal justice, economic justice and the political means through which those things that do that can be put into effect and those forces and ideologies that hamper and defeat that, producing inequality and denying justice can be thwarted and defeated.   I would rather go down trying to do that than giving into despair.

Giving up on the excuse of science and material causation is both lazy and it is unrealistic.  History doesn't just happen, it isn't an inevitable result of the workings out of non-conscious atavaistic forces or some brainlessly swinging dialectic. we are the agents of human history in so far as we live it.  If we give up, what results will be the result of our choices.  Unless we choose to believe that we can bend the arc of history toward justice, even in opposition to any alleged biological force of natural selection or material causation, the failure of justice is guaranteed by our choice.

Liberalism is harder than its alternative because it requires more effort to care about other people, it takes more effort in every way, it takes having the energy and the commitment to do that day after day, year after year, for an entire lifetime.  The best that materialists have presented to do that is the failure of Marxism which empties Bertolt Brecht's formulation of the same observation* seem as empty as Sartre's view of existence.  Even Silvio Rodriguez brilliant song which is introduced by Brecht's quote,  a beautiful  Marxist and, despite that, wise and necessary warning against American imperialism doesn't hold it up, considering his alternative in Castro's regime instead of a true egalitarian democracy governing with the consent of The People,  and Castro's Cuba has been the least bad of any of the attempts made under Marxism, in the past century  which is more evidence that materialism is a dead end.

With that failure of Marxism to even get off the ground, with the spectacle of inequality and INJUSTICE that Marxism as a real phenomenon in history is,  and the current materialist pseudo-leftism of neo-atheism which replaces a futile, neo-liberal,  liberalish libertarianism for any real hope for progress doesn't even hold the hope of any kind of effective struggle.  In the TV and media trained, post-literate neo-atheists we see the refusal of the only alternative of The Reverend King, the Liberation Theologians, the examples of the Christian base communities which were so subversive that the United States under the degenerate leadership of Reagan and Bush conducted a terror war against them, the dead end that materialism is,   Materialism begins as it ends in a declaration of futility and defeat of the goals of liberalism by an inevitable chaotic miasma.  As a proposal as a liberal alternative it deserves to be rejected because it must be for there to be any such thing as liberalism.

*  There are men who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are men who struggle for a year and they are better.
There are men who struggle many years, and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives:
These are the indispensable ones.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Did A Cardinal Knee Cap A Pope To Promote A Terrible War?

In light of the widespread myth that the Pope is an absolute dictator and that the bishops and Cardinals are his vassals and henchmen - part and parcel of that Brit-atheist tradition that is mentioned in my earlier post, here is a fascinating article by Mike Griffin from the Catholic Peace Fellowship about the possibility that the most prominent Cardinal in America, James Gibbons, intentionally and against the request of Pope Benedict XV failed to lobby for the peace plan that the Pope hoped would end the horrible bloodshed of the First World War.   It is a fascinating look at how complex the issues that Benedict XV faced and, though it doesn't to into it deeply, the complex history the papacy and the widespread suspicions about the intentions of that pope were colored by that history and how those were used by various players in thwarting one of the most tragic failures in the history of that time.  Though the case that Cardinal James Gibbons knee capped the pope in order to promote his own, domestic agenda of swelling the influence of the Catholic church isn't a solid one, it certainly is important because he was hardly the last such Cardinal to act in ways that favored American military policy over the Pope's attempts to bring about peace.  Cardinal Spelman leaps to mind.

The short and fleeting reference to Benedict XV's rejection of "just war theory" is something I hope to read more about because that was certainly one of the worst accomodations that Christians ever made to temporal powers and one of the most blatant violations of the words of Jesus, one which led to centuries of scandal which are used by atheists and others today to attack Christianity and which, itself, has undone so much of the effort to promote justice and the only valid goals of having a church.

It can only be imagined what might have happened if Benedict XV's plan happened, though, if it had succeeded, it may well have prevented the rise of Nazism, itself a response to the defeat of the Germans, and their success as the Allies' terms in the treaty brought about the economic disaster that followed which fed the Nazi movement.   You can't rewind history and predict what would have been if but we can look back and be fairly confident of what did happen because.   No one had clean hands to begin with but no one did afterwards, either.  Wilson, the peace president who, I believe reluctantly, brought us into the war tried to clean his at the peace conference and in his promotion of the League of Nations, only to fail.   The part the American financial establishment and the free media had in all of that is certainly more worthy of condemnation than what Benedict XV did.  They definitely knee capped him when he worked to prevent and end the war.

About Womens' Ordination And Other Issues Fr. McBrien on Friday

I was puzzled last week to read an article by an atheist who is hostile to the Catholic church and, perhaps, Catholics in general, one of those writers who can be counted on to parrot all kinds of the typical Brit-atheist anti-Catholic bromides founded in either a grotesquely uninformed and exaggerated view of actual historical events or in nothing but the imagination of ancient Anglican propagandists.  What puzzled me is that the article slammed Pope Francis for refusing to revisit the issue of the ordination of women.  If there is one thing that would happen with the approval of the ordination of women as Roman Catholic priests it would be a drastic reduction in the number of parishes without priests - there is no doubt that the move would also be accompanied by allowing married men (and, no doubt, women) to be ordained and inviting back priests who had been laicized at their request in order for them to follow a call to be married.  You would think that among the last things an atheist who is hostile to the Catholic religion would want to see would be a revival and swelling of the numbers of Catholic priests in the world.  But people often aren't careful about what they wish for.  If Pope Francis, acting on revelation, changed policy on that this afternoon, I don't think atheists would like the result.

Over time, perhaps a very short time, that would lead to a re-invigoration of  Catholicism, not only because it would restart many parishes which have been dying under the celibate-male-only* rule it would also probably provide a pool of more competent leaders for parishes and the Church in general, one which would probably be far more in touch with the lives of more Catholics and other people.   I can imagine a lot of the foolish things that bishops and cardinals have done over the past forty years might have been avoided by having had a deeper pool from which to appoint those from.  I can imagine a married clergy would also promote a more democratic church, one that consults the thinking and judgement of The People, something which wasn't novel in the first millennium of Catholicism when The People were far less likely to be literate and educated and informed than those who are entirely ignored today.   While that can be bad on occasion, so can the centralized authoritarian system the last two papacies have govern the church and the world.  This column about the beatification of the first of those popes by the second of them is relevant to that.

The late Pope John Paul II was beatified on May 1st and is now well on the way to canonization. Some people have complained about the speed of the process, but as the pope’s biographer George Weigel has correctly pointed out, there were no complaints about the speed with which Mother Teresa’s cause was advanced.

The speed of the process, however, is not the issue, nor is there any doubt in the minds of most critics that John Paul II is in heaven. 

What is at issue is the record of his long pontificate. Canonization is a public declaration not only that the new saint is in heaven, but that his life or hers is worthy of emulation (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 50).

While it is certainly the case that John Paul II’s pontificate included many achievements (his three social encyclicals, the renegotiation of the Lateran Pacts, his outreach to Jews, his interfaith gathering and prayer for peace at Assisi), its two major deficiencies were his grave mishandling of the sexual-abuse crisis in the priesthood and his appointment and promotion of exceedingly conservative bishops to, and within, the hierarchy.

Both deficiencies continue to define the Catholic Church in our time, and account for the severe demoralization that afflicts so many in the Church today. 

They also explain why so many thousands of Catholics have left the Church in recent years, so many in fact that in the United States ex-Catholics would constitute the country’s second largest denomination if they constituted a church unto themselves.

Therefore, it is the case that, on Blessed John Paul II’s watch, the greatest crisis to hit the Catholic Church since the Reformation was allowed to grow and to fester, and the bishops appointed during his long reign were unable to offer the kind of pastorally effective leadership that the crisis required. 

Indeed, these bishops were not selected in the first place for their pastoral qualities, but for their unquestioning loyalty to the Holy See on such issues as contraception, abortion, priestly celibacy, and the ordination of women. 

Bishop William Morris was recently sacked from his diocese of Toowoomba, Queensland, in Australia because he had urged in a pastoral letter that the ordination of women to the priesthood and the end of obligatory celibacy for priests at least be considered by the Vatican.

Pope Benedict XVI gave as his principal reason for dismissing Bishop Morris from his diocese that the bishop had effectively denied that the matter of women’s ordination had already been permanently settled by an infallible teaching of Pope John Paul II.

Many Catholics are demoralized today because of the continued stench from the sexual-abuse scandal in the priesthood and because of the repressive, pastorally insensitive behavior of some of the bishops appointed by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

They may have an additional reason for demoralization on the First Sunday of Advent later this year when the “reform of the reform” goes into effect. Some will resent the millions of dollars spent on new missals and song books, and will be confused and disoriented by the loss of familiar wordings.

Those who are more ecumenically-minded will lament the fact that, for the first time since Vatican II’s reform of the liturgy, the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian denominations will not be celebrating the Eucharist with the same words.

Close observers of this column and of my many contemporary lectures, writings, and television appearances know that, at the beginning of the pontificates of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, I expressed not only the hope but also the expectation that both pontificates would be highly successful, notwithstanding the doubts that many other commentators were expressing. 

In the former case, I welcomed the election of the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years. In the latter case, I was encouraged by the new pope’s selection of the name Benedict. Benedict XV (1914-1922), as I had pointed out in my Lives of the Popes, “may well have been one of the finest popes in history, but surely one of the least appreciated” (p. 355).

I judged Benedict XV to be one of the twelve “good” popes in papal history, calling him “Perhaps the most underrated of the modern popes” (p. 436). 

For those who wonder why the Catholic Church seems to be passing through one of the worst patches in its history, more benign explanations are, first, the premature death of Pope John Paul I after only 33 days in the papacy and, second, the refusal of Cardinal Carlo Colombo of Milan to accept election to the papacy in the second conclave of 1978.

The decline in the number of active Catholics in that period would be seen by a hierarchy in touch with The People as a severe crisis that should be addressed as soon as possible.   That it was unaddressed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI is a good indication of what happens when leadership isn't particularly concerned with The People as opposed to authority.   I would guess that people will respond to a pope and bishops who see them as important.   I can't respect John Paul II for his handling of the terror campaign the Reagan administration funded against The People of central America and elsewhere.  I can respect some of what he said about economic justice, I can't respect what he often did and the bishops he appointed here who were openly supportive of some of the most criminal and immoral politicians we've had as leaders.   I am certain that some of the remnants of those appointed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI will support some of the worst Republicans in the coming election, whose policies are a total violation of the entire Catholic tradition on economic and social justice and, certainly, peace.  They are also in fundamental violation of the teachings of conservatives about the value of life, most notably on the imposition of death but, also, in everything except opposition to legal abortion.

I would be counted among those "ex-Catholics" though, so far as the Catholic church is concerned, I'm still a Catholic.  I can receive communion without violating any of the rules and, in fact, did the last time I attended a mass.  More generally, I'd like to see a revival of liberal Catholicism because it has been and is a positive good in the world.   So, I've got both standing to have an opinion in the matter and an interest in it.

It is quite fair that I mention another group of Catholics at odds with the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Women Priests, who, though formally excommunicated, consider themselves to remain as Catholics and Catholic priests and bishops.   If time will lead to them being recognized as validly ordained priests under apostolic succession, who knows?   I don't have any quarrel with them, they seem like the real thing to me.  They say "all are welcome", hospitality being about the most ancient of all obligations in the tradition Catholicism is a part of.

*  John Paul II certainly opened the door for relaxing the rule against non-married priests by allowing married ex-Anglican and Episcopalian priests who left over the ordination of women to be "reordained" as Catholic priests and to serve as parish priests.  I will probably post another of his columns on that issue soon.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hate Mail - Written in Pablum

If I were to limit my vocabulary to what he can handle I'd die of boredom.  The mileage he's gotten on that incompetently framed pun only proves my point about Eschaton shedding adult commentators like .... no, on second thought it might offend someone if I used the term and he'd just try to come up with another stupid pun on it.  

Beethoven - Sonata Op. 53 "Waldstein" - Rudolph Serkin


This is the greatest performance of this sonata I've ever heard, in person or in recording.  The tempos and rubato passages are exactly right, especially the one he chose for the second movement.  The perfection of detail, the clarity of presenting the lines, the rhythm, the contrasts, the formal structure of the piece and, most of all, the music are just perfect.   The Youtube doesn't do it justice, this is one you'll want on CD or LP.

Humanists Are Reaping What They Sowed A Half A Century Ago

Yesterday I cited R. Joseph Hoffmann's critique of Richard Carrier to provide support for my rejection of Carrier as a scholar who anyone has to trust or take seriously.   He made some good points in his critique so last night I spent some time at his blog and read more of what he had to say.   Hoffmann makes some very good points about the neo-atheists and is obviously spot on in much of what he says about that and many other things.  I do respect him, even as I don't agree with much of what he concludes.

As someone who has been critical of the "Humanists" I was especially interested in his critique of that club.  As it is I read his two  posts on that in opposite order, the second one an answer to John Shook's comment on the first contained one of the best, short descriptions of the atheist religion, what most people online know as "Humanism"

The “humanism” that movement humanism hawks is a duck blind for the so-called new atheism.    It isn’t (as a CFI operative recently alleged) that religion is the opposite of humanism, any more than your grandpa is the opposite of you.  But in its premises, approach, and substance, secular humanism is now the opposite of humanism.

Having called "Humanism" a smoke screen for the promotion of atheism and a Trojan Horse for neo-atheism, I think I like "duck blind" better, it encapsulates the real intention of its founders, or, at least, those who controlled it after Corliss Lamont bought it out when it fell on hard times.

Since Hoffmann was one of the central figures in the Paul Kurtz circle, it was especially gratifying to read his criticism of the movement he relatively recently was at the center of.  Here is how the first post which Shook was responding to begins:

As a humanist I have often done what humanists do: hide behind the great thoughts of significant men and women to give my own ideas heft and importance.

The possibility of doing that came to an end in 2009, when America’s oldest humanist society, the AHA, bestowed its “Humanist of the Year” award on a man named P Z Myers, someone whose simplistic views, bare-knuckle style towards his critics, and lack of literary depth embody everything I abhor about contemporary humanism and new atheism.

But I have written plenty about what I abhor.  And I have written a fair bit about why organized humanism, infused and high-jacked by the “new” atheism, has been turned into a parody of serious humanist principles and ideals.  Myers, blogger Jerry Coyne, and a few other swains who hang out at the Free Thought Ghetto, wasted no time trying to frame me as a pompous, old school, elitist, humanities-loving humanist, the sort who is soft on religion because (of course) he is (a) secretly religious himself (b) too dim to be Bright and (c) naïve enough to think that ‘humanism’ can still be separated from the religion-hating spew and tactics of Richard Dawkins and his cult.  While not every voice was as repetitive and coarse as Myers’, 2009-2012 were rough years for people accused by the court of atheist opinion of being “accommodationists.”  Perhaps the most astonishing thing about the new atheist/humanist defense of its position, given the role of Richard Dawkins in the movement, was its incipient anti-intellectualism, its impatience for words in preference for what it construed as “argument,” and its contempt for even mild dissent and criticism–characteristics we normally associate with religious apologetic.

Perhaps more tellingly, here is his description of what led up to that event.

It was only slightly amusing to watch these religion haters develop all of the essential symptoms and pathologies of a cult, traits which were less obvious to them because they had never studied religious behavior and the psychopathology of cults.

But all the markers were there: a book, or canon of four books; a savior and a few lesser avatars; the promise of intellectual salvation using a formula for separateness and difference; most of all, the certainty that they are on the straight path, the right road, that others are wrong, and its behavioral corollary: intolerance of contradiction and correction.

With a few of my friends, notably the persistently hopeful Nathan Bupp I have pleaded for the return of the remains of serious humanism from the exile into which its captors flung it in 2008– the year Paul Kurtz was dethroned from the chairmanship of CFI, and the year I stepped aside as its Vice President—to mainstream intellectual and social life.  But the infiltration of the key outposts of humanism by religion-haters makes the job of reclaiming or “restoration” one for Atlas.  Outside the halls of academe, the word humanism is today almost synonymous with the word atheism, and atheism synonymous with the lowbrow definitions of its loudest, pop science-worshiping groupies.

I could have written most of that myself, if I could write that well, except, of course, that I'm not an atheist or a humanist and that I know the Paul Kurtz who he lauds wasn't opposed to the tactics and anti-intellectualism Hoffmann decries, he was one of its pioneers.   How Hoffmann could overlook the content and tenor of the many activities that Paul Kurtz initiated and was at the head of, certainly beginning with his editorship of The Humanist, the house organ of American Humanism,  his early years as the dictator of CSICOP* and the real force behind its house organ, Skeptical Inquirer, the founder and head of  Prometheus Books (the atheist equivalent of Regnery) and his association with some of the sleaziest figures in organized skepticism, such as James Randi, and including  a number of those who Hoffmann criticizes, such as Richard Dawkins, I can't imagine.

The Paul Kurtz I looked into and studied broke and planted the ground that the new atheists sowed in the past dozen years. That they eventually pushed the old man aside as he thought they were bringing the movement farther down market than he liked was predictable but he'd brought it quite far down market, himself. His part in ousting Marcello Truzzi, another co-founder of CSICOP and the first editor of its journal, which became Skeptical Inquirer after his ousting, made what the youngsters did to Kurtz seem rather karmic, if I believed in karma, which I don't, exactly.  I do believe that you are likely to reap what you've sown, though.

Still, with that in mind what Hoffmann says about Humanism is entirely worth reading for the information it contains and as an all too rare internal critique of atheism.   Here is another passage to encourage you to read the rest:

In fact many atheists have tried to persuade their commando friends that the new atheist critique of God and religion is amateurish, indeed embarrassing: intellectuals and academics with no religious sentiment at all have been stunned by its lack of sophistication and ignorance of the voluminous literature—both academic and popular,   historical  and philosophical  on the God problem. The reason critics like Richard Dawkins have done comparatively well selling books on subjects they know nothing about is the transferability thesis: the idea that the prestige you earn writing books on genes and grasshoppers can easily be transferred to topics as hazy as “religion,” at least if you accept (as Dawkins does) that the study of  religion and theology is nothing at all.

Add celebrity atheism to secular humanism and you get the word cash, which is what these organizations need to stay afloat. And as churches have known forever, to get cash you need converts.  To get converts, at least in the USA, you need big names. Big names lend luster, star power, even credibility to any campaign, and movement humanism is just that: the campaign for disbelief.

But “celebrity atheism” like celebrity anything else, actually cheapens the serious study of religion, which has dealt with the problem of God for a few hundred years, and longer if we include the history of theology stretching back to Anselm and the pre-Christian classical writers, perhaps especially Epicurus and Lucretius.  In fact, I would argue that celebrity atheism weakens the atheist position in the same way that Hollywood manages to ruin every good book, glitz without guts.

How does it cheapen it?  By associating ideas that should be arrived at by careful thought with other (even if famous) people’s conclusions:  Bill Maher is an atheist; so is Ben Affleck, George Clooney, Sarah Silverman, Bill Nye. Are you smarter than they are? Case closed.   Fallacy-wise it’s called argumentum ad auctoritatem.  But we can forgive this trespass, because religious people do it every time they appeal to the Bible. At any rate, the “25,000,000 smart people can’t be wrong” approach to intellectual (or political) rectitude doesn’t always get you where you want to go, and American atheists and humanists can only dream about a number like that.  What once was proudly called free-thought is fast becoming the slavish repetition of slogans and one-liners. Did you hear the one about the talking snake?  If God is so smart, why did he put the prostate next to a man’s urinary tract?

I like that so much that I will repeat that I can't understand how Hoffmann missed that it is merely an extension of what his friend Paul Kurtz did in the past half-century.  His critique of the neo-atheists and his decrying what they did to humanism is all there from  sTARBABY,  the critique of Kurtz and CSICOP written by Dennis Rawlins and which was confirmed by another former (and far more measured) member of CSICOP. Richard Kammann.   The most telling part of that is that Dennis Rawlins is a loud-mouthed neo-atheist of the kind who Hoffmann abhors but who, as a scientist, couldn't abide the scientific incompetence and dishonesty of Kurtz and CSICOP in its one and only scientific investigation.   Taken together with Hoffmann's critique of "Humanism" from the point of view of a person in the humanities, there really isn't much left in it but the spectacle of ignorant armies trashing the entire range of the intellectual tradition.

I also can't understand how he couldn't have seen through John Shook earlier than that.  I had a few exchanges with Shook at his Center for Inquriy blog a few years back.  Shook has to be one of the most vacuous owners of a PhD in philosophy I've ever read or, even more tellingly, heard. Listen to this exchange, the analogy he constructs and even more so what he says about there being "more nature beyond nature" , remembering he's a PhD in philosophy, it's amazing how inept it is.   And he  is typical of the best and the, um....., "Brightest" of those living off of the legacy of Paul Kurtz.

Update:  Dennis Rawlins from "sTARBABY "

Once CSICOP was under way, I found myself not only on the ruling Council but also on the editorial board. Although most of the Fellows sought, like me, to battle pseudoscientific bunk, they disagreed about the means. Except for the agreement to start a magazine (Zetetic, later Skeptical Inquirer) there was little cohesion on public policy, a vacuum that was filled (if not in fact caused) by tacit cohesion on Private Priority Number One for active CSICOP Fellows: maximum personal press coverage.

... Kurtz tried another let's-make-a-deal ploy, bursting out. "But I agree with you" He went on to blame the whole sTARBABY mess on Zelen and Abell! They had led him into the pit! But he would do nothing beyond private assent 
    After we had finished! I phoned Randi to report Kurtz was trying to buy silence on the Gauquelin mess. By the next day (November 20) a Council deal had been concocted (and offered) that would have me chair the astrology section of the press conference. Of course this would entail my introducing Abell. My reply was the old adage that a man who can't be bribed can't be trusted 
    At this Kurtz exploded in raging fear that his holy press conference would be ruined. He immediately phoned the Councilors and expressed concern that I might attack the Gauquelin project from the floor during the conference; some way had to be found to get me kicked off the Council. (This sudden search for a pretext to eject me -- the first suggestion of the need for my demise -- should be kept in mind because Council is now at great pains to dredge up any other sort of "offense" on my part as the good reason for booting me To borrow from the business world, let us recall the immortal words of J. P. Morgan: "For every action there are two reasons: a good reason and the real reason.")

Really, you have to read the whole thing and Richard Kammann's confirmation of it to believe how sleazy and dishonest the whole thing was and how many eminent and famous people were either involved or complicit in its cover up.  The prominent part played by James [The Amazing (and entirely incompetent)] Randi in it was a dead giveaway of its anti-intellectual, pro-publicity nature.

*  The critique of one of the other founders of CSICOP, Dennis Rawlins, correctly described the absolute control over CSICOP that Kurtz exercised, he had called Kurtz its "President for Life".

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Maybe They Should Start Calling Advanced Degrees A PrD Instead Of Pretending It Has Much To Do With Mastery of The Standards of Philosophy These Days

I had someone bring up the PhD holding, neo-atheist Jesus mythicist, blogger, Richard Carrier to me in the ongoing brawls at Religion Dispatches,

Jim Reed  Camera Obscura • 15 hours ago
"The epistles of James and I Peter are also oddly silent about a historical Jesus"
Richard Carrier, On the Historicity of Jesus

There was other Christianities distinct from Paul, but the important thing is the gospel stories that were written later were not known in the time of Paul. Christianity was initially a religion based on a Christ found in the old testament, and not based on Jesus of Nazareth, or any historical person. That Jesus was written up and believed in later.

Camera Obscura  Jim Reed • 15 hours ago
The Epistle of James was written to people who would already be familiar with Jesus, as were those of Paul which were written to Christian communities. There is nothing odd about them not going over things such people would already have known and could be assumed to know. So, sorry, your point is pointless.

Oh, and Richard Carrier is an atheist hack who has produced multiple debunked debunkings. He is about as reliable as any for-pay ideological hack with a PhD.

I was marginally aware of Richard Carrier a few years back, the great white hope of the "Free Thought" blogs set, someone allegedly with the credentials to put the nail in the coffin of Jesus, even as such people asserted he never lived.   I didn't think anyone took him especially seriously, not after his attacks on the previous atheist favorite, Bart Ehrman who committed the unforgivable sin of saying by any standard for believing in historical personages of the ancient past, the case for Jesus having actually lived is extremely strong, surpassing the evidence that many others lived who are not only not in dispute but, also, are used by neo-atheists and other ideologues without any problem.  He is also an intellectual hack who makes some incredibly absurd statements which his fans accept on the basis of his academic credentials, though he is a rather weird kind of post-literate scholar who has, as far as I'm able to determine, never subjected his contentions to peer review by competent scholars.  A good evaluation of him by an atheist, even humanist, scholar is this one by R. Joseph Hoffmann.  You can read Bart Ehrman's response to some of the points Carrier attacked him on here.

There are so many atheist hacks out there that it's impossible to keep up with them all, especially those who construct the most fantastic and tendentious arguments on the thinnest of material and where no real scholar of the material has ever found them.  I had taken so little interest in him that I'd never listened to his biggest star turn, his debate with William Lane Craig, in which Carrier did so badly that even he admitted he hadn't done well, even as he claimed that he had an impossible task in debating the Resurrection of Jesus.  Oddly, for someone who claims he predicted he had agreed to a next to impossible task in arguing that one aspect of the Gospels, he chose to debate it by trying to debate the far more complex task of totally debunking the reliability of the Gospels in their entirety.  Such is the intellectual coherence of neo-atheism that Carrier is held to have gained credibility from his loss to Craig.

But the conduct of Richard Carrier, as Ehrman and Hoffman respond to it, two non-believers, shows something a lot more interesting than just the loss arguments by amateurs as opposed to either real scholars or a brilliant and prepared debater such as Craig, it shows how the internet has elevated hacks who are held as credible by others who have been to college and who have even earned doctorates but who are entirely unaware and unappreciative of the entire range of intellectual methods and tactics that historians (Carrier has a degree in history) and other scholars have developed to deal with the documentary and archeological record which comprises the primary source material that any honest study of the past must rest on and which it always has to take into account.  The claims that Carrier uses to debunk the historicity of Jesus are so far removed from those materials that they start out being extremely weak and end up being totally fanciful (you have to hear him say some of that stuff to really believe someone who presents himself as a scholar would say it).  Yet for the audience he is appealing to, committed atheists who are hostile to Christianity, uninformed non-atheists who he hopes to convert,  he is claimed to be a real scholar of that area of scholarship who must be taken seriously.

I will say that I don't agree with many of the conclusions of either those two scholars or with many of the conclusions of William Lane Craig but I am bound by the reasonableness of their methods to take them seriously, even when I don't like what they conclude and as I disagree with it.  If I'm going to argue with what they say I would have to argue on the same bases of scholarly and intellectual engagement that they've fulfilled.   That we have hundreds of thousands, millions of people who hold university degrees who don't understand that is a massive scandal, one which is promoted by PhDs with blogs, with publishing contracts and who get on the chat shows on those bases.   There is an incredible irony in our time that the standards and practices of scholarship are as high as they have been in any period even as the entire intellectual enterprise is swamped by and defeated in society and a political context by the most vulgar of PR techniques and appeal to prejudice.   This is as serious a problem as the similar problem which scientists complain about when Biblical fundamentalists deny the fact of evolution or when those who have been duped by FOX and other networks who make profits out of the oil and other extraction industries in the fact of human-caused climate change.   I say it's all the same politicizing of the mechanisms of informing people and the degradation of truth by the techniques of mass media and an appeal to the least common and most heated denominator.

Once before when I talked about the fact that William Lane Craig has repeatedly mopped the floor with even real scholars and scientists who have debated him I got comments angry with me for saying something nice about an evangelical Christian who is a political conservative and who I couldn't agree with on may issues.   All of those are true but you don't have to agree with someone to not hold that they are totally depraved, evil and to be rejected on those bases.   Adults can agree to disagree about things, though if you're going to enter into debate with someone as accomplished as Craig in public, you'd better come prepared for the barrage of preparation he will have.   The same is true when it comes to atheists I have praised, and there have been more of those here than there have been evangelical Christians I have praised and cited positively here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dave Holland Quintet - Metamorphos


Chris Potter - Tenor & Soprano Saxophone
Robin Eubanks - Trombone & Percussion
Steve Nelson - Vibes
Dave Holland - Bass
Billy Kilson - Drums

Shaker Easter


A documentary about life in the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community

An Exchange From Religion Dispatches

This is a discussion I've been having at Religion Dispatches, beginning with the article, WHO’S SCARED OF POLYGAMY? A RESTRAINED CASE FOR THE “SLIPPERY SLOPE” ARGUMENT.  I will remind you that I've been using the name "Camera Obscura" in disqus to avoid the idiot who trolls me all over the internet.  I will be choosing another pseudonym for that reason in the future.

Camera Obscura • 3 days ago
1. Polygamy has always been a heterosexual phenomenon, if anything were going to lead to polygamy, it would be straight marriage, not same-sex marriage. 2. The best reason to ban polygamy is that no one person should be given extra opportunities to screw up a marriage or to make more than one person miserable. 3. Elizabeth Cady Stanton had another good reason that it would be a good idea when she told the sexist hog who bragged about his seven sons that no man should be reproduced seven times, polygamy gives such men too much of a chance to reproduce themselves and their view of women, making even more people miserable.

Keep the polygamy talk about yourselves, straight folk, leave me out of it.

Sven  Camera Obscura • a day ago
1) The homosexuals who have multiple partners would disagree with what you have to say.
2) Who are you to get involved the the bedroom of consensual adults?
3) What? So your argument is that some men sleep with multiple women outside of marriage so clearly they shouldn't marry multiple women? I'm confused.

Summation, I think its hilarious that now that you have "rights", you so willingly and eagerly shut out others who seek similar rights.

Camera Obscura  Sven • a day ago
1. The number of GAY men and lesbians who have multiple sex partners, not SPOUSES, are a tiny fraction of the heterosexuals who have both multiple sex partners and who have had polygamy to themselves all theses millenia.

2. I'm me. I can have an opinion about the screwy situation where one man marries a whole hell of a lot of women at once and breeds like a hog. No man should have as many children as polygamy produces.

3. You don't think very clearly so I'm hoping you are going for the nulygamy option.

Just as I am a one-person, one vote person, I'm a one person, one spouse person. Generally, except in the most unusual of circumstances, a person can't screw up too much if they cast a bad vote, they can do a lot more damage if they have a bad marriage so why multiply the chances of that happening?

I have no problem with society limiting the number of spouses to one at a time. Gay folk would be better if they had practiced that as well. To begin by saying that monogamy is not a reasonable expectation is for Gay men (of whom I am one) and lesbians is to define our marriages as inferior, doing to ourselves what the gay bashers would do to us.

OK, I just looked into your comment archive, I want to reiterate #3.

Sven  Camera Obscura • 21 hours ago
Well perhaps you should stop being so bigoted and accept people for who they are. Ever think of that?

Camera Obscura  Sven • 20 hours ago
I don't see any reason to accept selfish, irresponsible people for who they are now but for who they might become. Like all conservatives, you're comfortable with a status quo that benefits you even as it disadvantages others. I'm not a conservative, I'm a liberal, a real one, not a libertarian posing as one.

Sven  Camera Obscura • 16 hours ago
You need to stop being so bigoted. The things you say are the same thing conservatives said about gays and marriage. You are a bigot, you must accept that, its part of your identity. You should start voting Republican, because you've become one ;-)

Camera Obscura  Sven • a few seconds ago
I am a liberal, there are no liberal Republicans. You see, I have the same view of economic justice that I do of all other aspects of equality, which is incompatible with being a Republican. And Republicans have also become the indigenous American criminal class, producing the most dishonest, anti-democratic politicians and judges in current America, I despise the party which any honest person left long, long ago.

brisonc3  Camera Obscura • a day ago
number 1, how do you know the number of gay men with multiple sex partners is tiny? Many homosexual men have spoken out freely saying the opposite. Mogogamy can only be maintained with extra affairs on the side. According to these homosexuals, monogamy is not compatible with the orientation.
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Camera Obscura  brisonc3 • a day ago
Are you gay? I am, I have been for well over half a century. According to this GAY MAN monogamy is as compatible with being a grown-up, honest, responsible gay man as it is with any other gender identity. That is grown-up, honest and responsible. For other people who refuse to grow up, be honest or responsible, I'm sure they find being responsible in sex is as hard as it is for such folks to be responsible, generally .

I'm always so interested in having straight folk tell me all about being gay.

brisonc3  Camera Obscura • 6 hours ago
It isn't straight men saying that, it's gay men saying that and you may well be in the minority. I would say for example that mature teens refrain from sexual activity until they are ready for a permanent relationship and for children, but many don't.

It is the mature and responsible thing not have sex if you don't want children(since intercourse is what makes children), but left wingers poo poo the idea. "It isn't irresponsible to do what you want to do as long as you believe you are doing it safely". However "safe" is doing what is smart and gives the best result if one doesn't want to be pregnant, yet, the shaking of heads.

Yes, there are the responsible ones, but the gay public is not that responsible as we found out when HIV was first being reported and it was fairly discussed that bath houses and places for casual and even anonymous sex should be shut down for health reasons. Battle cries broke out.

Now where was this "responsible and mature gay majority" during that period? Not very vocal or not very large to the point of making a difference.

But for responsibility, what is irresponsible about more than 2 entering a contract of commitment(marriage) if each is willing to accept all mandates and responsibilities that come with it? That isn't irresponsible. What is irresponsible is to say you will, then don't. Those that want to enter such relationships should be able to do so until it is proven such relationships are dangerous. Until they are allowed to "come out of the shadows" and are given an opportunity to prove they can have successful relationships, don't keep them from the opportunity to try.

However this is exactly what many who now have achieved the cause of "marriage equality" want to do. Rob other models of relationships from having the chance to be and show they can be successful.

No homosexual should be against that since they just finished demanding that chance. "you should be able to marry who you love". For many, "love" is big enough for more than one. They should have that right. It doesn't hurt any 2 member marriage for others to have more than 2.

Camera Obscura  brisonc3 • a few seconds ago
You are lying about the lives of many, many gay men who don't engage in promiscuity, who don't engage in casual sex outside of a mature and mutually supportive and loving relationship. Gay men such as Dan Savage also tell lies like that, gay men who say that monogamy among gay men is impossible or, in the supreme irony of this discussion, "unnatural" are telling the same lies only more stupidly since they are confirming a widespread and false stereotype of gay men in order to promote irresponsible sex among gay men which, during my lifetime, led to the deaths of enormous numbers of gay men. Ironically, Dan Savage and his like share a degraded view of gay men with the very bigots who oppress us. Such sexperts who advocate unfaithful marriages for gay men and lesbians accept an already degraded view of marriage on our behalf. I reject their offer.

So, you are advocating that for straight, married couples who experience a loss of fertility or infertility that they remain entirely chaste, that there be no sex for women and their husbands after menopause or after they have had the number of children they had planned on having. Yeah, let me know how well that goes over. Most people, the vast majority of people, don't take that view of sex. It is a view of sex which is certainly not supported by the Bible. If it were then neither Abraham and Sarah nor Zachary and Anna would have had the children who played such a prominent role in the Biblical narratives they were a part of, Abraham would certainly not have begot the Nation of Israel and, if you take the genealogy of Jesus seriously, his mother would not have been born.

If, as I suspect, you are a Catholic it is especially ironic that you take the view of marriage you do because in Catholicism it is the couple making promises to each other for mutual support and love that makes the marriage, not some outsider approving of it. Marriage is a sacramental act the validity of which hinges on the mature consent to that agreement, it doesn't hinge on the fertility of the couple, entirely infertile couples, couples with no chance of conceiving due to biological impossibility are not barred from marrying or having sex within that marriage. The Catholic Church does not hold that such marriages are null and void, they do marriages in which one of both of the couple didn't make a mature and sincere commitment to the marriage agreement.

Your putting "love" into quotes when it comes to gay men and lesbians betrays your real thinking, which is motivated by hatred and bigotry.

Polygamy is an immature form of marriage which is based on two or more lesser relationships than a marriage involving two people. There is no way in which a polygamous marriage doesn't end up being an unequal relationship in which, in all historical cases, the women suffer in the lesser role of that relationship. I don't see any problem with a society not supporting that situation due to the inherent danger of inequality being a nearly fixed likelihood as being the result anymore than it doesn't support a marriage in which an unequal relations is bound to occur if one of the members of it is too young to make a mature agreement. The age of consent is, in some cases, arbitrary, many people of that age are too unintelligent or immature to give meaningful consent, but the law has to pretend that they can, I would expect that there are people slightly younger than the age of consent who could give the decision the requisite intelligent, mature consideration that it requires. But the law can't be that specific to an individual and uncharacteristic reality, it has deliver equal treatment, based on the most typical of circumstances. I don't have any problem with it taking the more typical outcome of polygamy into account in which one man marries more than one woman and has more children than they can reasonably take care of and support and give enough attention to to raise them to become responsible, mature adults who respect all people equally. While that is possible within a monogamous marriage, it isn't typical of straight monogamous marriage. I also don't think there is anything wrong with society admitting that the likelihood of inequality arising within a polygamous marriage is multiplied. It's bad enough when a father has a favorite among his children, to also give such people who play favorites an ability to have favorites among many wives, no doubt having that contribute to unequal treatment among their children, is nothing that society has any obligation to approve of.

Monogamous marriage among gay men and lesbians is not the same as polygamy for any number of reasons, polygamy is bound to create inequality and unequal treatment, it will, as well result in unequal marriages of the type that gay men and lesbians rejected in the past decade when it was offered. I, actually, favored the state getting out of the marriage business altogether and only granting, everyone, including straight couples a legal recognition of their relationship as a civil union, marriage being a far higher and private aspect of such a relationship, one which the state has no role in consummating, reducing that relationship to a mere contractual and financial arrangement. If you want to see what has damaged straight marriage, it is that reduction of its sacred aspect by straight people, just as the inequality of marriages in earlier times degraded it. Marriage equality elevates the married relationship to what it should be, a human practice of the sacred endowment of equality. God has the capacity to practice such intimate equality to more than one person, people don't share that same capacity.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Hate Mail - I Don't Have The Time To Waste On The Brats Just Now

I don't care what they're saying, no time to waste on their idiocy, now. 

Also, too.

I'm never really surprised but also decreasingly interested in having straight boys tell me all about how gay men are supposed to think and act.  They figure we're all the same and how they figure we're supposed to be, which might have lessons to teach as to how they view women, also, but I don't have time for that, either.   And, no, I'm not interested in how middle-aged gay boys who won't grow up, won't be honest and won't be responsible for the consequences of their action think I should act anymore than I am in what the straight boys say.